1794. The Mediterranean is proving dangerous waters for John Pearce and his Pelicans. Having left his lover Emily, who is also the wife of his mortal enemy Ralph Barclay, in the Tuscan port of Leghorn, Pearce is detained in Naples. When he unknowingly delivers a letter promoting the shady and incompetent Admiral Hotham, Pearce finds himself entangled in a political plot that soon puts those closest to him at peril. When reunited with Emily, John Pearce faces a losing battle to keep her reputation intact. Although his Pelicans aid in the endeavour, Emily sees no future for her with Pearce and leaves while he is conveying private letters for Horatio Nelson to the British Ambassador, Sir William Hamilton. Learning of Emily's departure, Pearce sets off in pursuit and has to take on the superior force of Barbary Corsairs who have targeted the merchant ship Emily is travelling on, the Sandown Castle. Outgunned by a barbaric opponent, John Pearce's chances of survival — as well as those of Emily and Pearce's crew — are dubious. And even if they can win this fierce battle, another threat looms on the horizon as Pearce is not the only one chasing Emily; Ralph Barclay has learned of his wife's desertion and is on his way to recapture her.